A lot of natural gas is just burnt away, without serving any meaningful purpose whatsoever. The flares are a common sight on many such installations. In 2005, it was estimated that nearly 0.5% of the CO2 emissions from fossil fuels come from natural gas flaring. Today, it may be enough to power Germany. This natural gas could be put to perfectly good use, and that is exactly what Brazil’s Petrobas intends to do.
The Brazilian state oil company is looking for solutions that may come from the partnership of U.K.-based Compact GTL and Japan’s Sumitomo Precision Products, or from Columbus-based Velocys. It is expected that this “associated gas” can be turned into synthetic crude oil. This would be achieved by the use of compact GTL (gas to liquid) plants that the said companies are developing.
The process is commercially viable only on a huge scale, so the challenge facing the companies is to reduce the GTL plants into compact packages that can fit into an offshore platform, or on the floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessels used to explore and service offshore oil fields.